World Refugee Day 2024

World Refugee Day

Hope away from home – a world
where refugees are always included

Photo, above: Mohammad Nasir Moradi, IIE Odyssey Scholar from Afghanistan

When the Taliban took control of my country, my dreams of continuing my education seemed shattered. But then, IIE appeared as a beacon of light, offering me a scholarship to continue my studies.”

Mohammad Nasir Moradi
IIE Odyssey Scholar from Afghanistan

Education empowers people to build a life aligned with their values and aspirations. Yet more people are living in conditions that severely limit their access to it – and hope for a future.

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Crises such as armed conflict, extreme weather, and systemic corruption and repression have forced more than 117 million people* from their homes to date. Access to higher education reverberates through communities and nations, ultimately fostering a more secure and equitable future for everyone. That is why IIE has issued more than 2,300 scholarships, fellowships, and grants to displaced students, scholars, and artists through the Odyssey Scholarship, the Scholar Rescue Fund, and other groundbreaking initiatives.

IIE joins the international community in recognizing the limitless potential among refugees and displaced people and calling for more inclusive policies that provide viable pathways to continue their education and contribute to a brighter future.

watch IIE Honors: Hear remarkable stories of hope and resilience from IIE students, scholars, and artists at the IIE Honors Virtual event.
By the Numbers

IIE has issued more than 2,300 scholarships, fellowships, and grants to displaced students, scholars, and artists from Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and other regions through our groundbreaking initiatives, including the Odyssey Scholarship and the Scholar Rescue Fund..

1 out of 69
People worldwide have been displaced from their homes*
Scholarships, grants, and fellowships awarded
IIE has supported displaced individuals from over 30 countries

*according to the UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency

IIE deploys global, holistic resources for students, scholars, and artists where and when it’s needed most. Philanthropic support at all levels helps to deploy emergency grants, secure long-term safe work placements, and provide life-changing scholarships. Learn more about IIE’s Crisis Response initiatives below.

I decided I had to get out of the country. It wasn’t an easy decision, but I had to.”

Sharifa “Elja” Sharifi, IIE Artist Protection Fund Fellow from Afghanistan

In 2021, Sharifa “Elja” Sharifi was working at the Afghan National Gallery in Herāt when the Taliban seized control of the government in Afghanistan.

As a female visual artist and an outspoken advocate for women’s rights, Elja was left with no choice but to flee her home country.

Elja found refuge at Cornell University through the IIE Artist Protection Fund, the only global program that provides artists across métier with fellowship funding, placement, mentoring, and inclusion in a comprehensive network of artistic and social support.

She recalls her decision: “I couldn’t believe that night when, among the noise of bombs, shootings, and rockets, our beautiful Herāt fell. Although I was still alive, I felt like the walking dead. I decided I had to get out of the country. It wasn’t an easy decision, but I had to.”

Artist Protection Fund Fellow Sharifa "Elja" Sharifi speaks in a board room as others listen.

Protecting Educational Access Among Afghan Women

Afghan university-age students, scholars, and artists face threats to their work, their ability to continue their education and their lives. In the two years since the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan, IIE and its global network partners have expanded our work to ensure the safety and welfare of students, scholars, and artists threatened by the political shift. To date, IIE’s Scholar Rescue Fund has awarded more than 100 fellowships to Afghan scholars.

IIE is a proud implementing partner of the Qatar-American Scholarship for Afghans Project, supported through a collaboration with The Afghan Future Fund, Schmidt Futures, Education Above All, the Yalda Hakim Foundation, the Qatar Fund For Development (QFFD), and the U.S. Department of State. Nearly 300 QSAP scholarships have been awarded to Afghan students since its inception in 2022, with 59% awarded to women. Meet some of the QSAP recipients and learn more about IIE’s Afghanistan Crisis Response.

Investing in the Future Leaders of Ukraine

University buildings, professors, college and graduate students, and other civilians attached to education are commonly targeted as authoritarian policies seek to undermine access to knowledge. From the start of the war in Ukraine in 2022, IIE stepped in to provide immediate aid to Ukrainian students, scholars, and artists whose livelihoods were abruptly upended, and since then, we have supported more than 600 scholars, students, and artists through our longer-term Ukraine Crisis Response initiatives.

I view myself as an active participant in Ukraine’s recovery process. The experience and knowledge I gained during my IIE-SRF fellowship and the long-term ties I built with my foreign colleagues will improve Ukrainian education.”

Scholar Rescue Fund Fellow Olha Matviienko of Ukraine; Placement: Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan, Poland

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Empowering Campuses to Welcome Refugee Students

IIE is a proud member of the Welcome Corps on Campus, a new U.S. Department of State program empowering campus communities to welcome refugee students as they regain their futures and continue their educational journeys. We successfully placed the first cohort of 31 refugee students, currently residing in Kenya and Jordan, who will begin their undergraduate degrees at higher education institutions across the U.S. starting in the fall of 2024. IIE is grateful to be part of the consortium alongside nonprofit organizations with expertise in higher education and refugee resettlement.


Support scholarships for individuals who have been forcibly displaced